Mar 1, 2011
Dr. Bernard Nathanson, once the foremost abortionist in the United States and then perhaps abortion's most effective opponent, died Feb. 21 at age 84. The Washington Post obituary mentioned that his 28-minute film, "The Silent Scream," released in 1985, "became a sensation, widely distributed by antiabortion groups and screened at the White House by President Ronald Reagan, who urged members of Congress to see the movie and 'move quickly to end the tragedy of abortion.'"
Therein lies a tale in which I participated when I met Dr. Nathanson in the White House back in 1985. At the time, I was working for Ambassador Faith Ryan Whittlesey, assistant to the president for public liaison. We had gotten wind of Dr. Nathanson's film, and I called his producer to see if there was any possibility of getting 450 copies to be sent to every member of Congress, after showing it in the White House's Old Executive Office Building.
Technically, it was illegal for us to solicit from the White House, so we would simply let the need be known and hope for a generous offer. It came immediately. The only problem was how to make so many copies in so short a time, since we wanted to screen the film on February 12, Lincoln's birthday (what better occasion for a pro-life event?). The producer put on a 24-hour-per-day shift to get the job done.
Meanwhile, Whittlesey went to work to get President Reagan to make an appearance. The scheduling office declined. It's highly probable that the office did not show him the request and declined it on its own, as it often did. We next tried Vice President George Bush -- no, again. Whittlesey then invited Donald Regan, the White House chief of staff. While attempting to get an answer, Whittlesey grabbed one of Regan's assistants in the hallway and told him of the event at which she wanted Regan to appear. Regan's assistants were known as the "mice" for their timidity when it came to the president's moral agenda. The mouse in question quivered and responded, "But that's controversial." Whittlesey glared back at him and said sharply, "No, it's not. It's the president's policy." Regan said no. Finally, we asked Pat Buchanan, then White House communications director, but he too declined. I should mention that Pat had only been in the White House for a week when this happened. I was reminded of this by Mark Klugmann, who worked with me on the Whittlesey staff for this event. I have no idea if Pat ever even saw the invitation to speak. As everyone knows, Pat Buchanan has always been a champion of the pro-life cause.